“Hey. Hey. Hey!”
The third one is too close to me for comfort, so I finally turn around to see a man almost exactly my height in a filthy green coat at least a size too big for him with a dent in his head. I’m not sure how or why the dent got there, on the right side toward the middle, sort of above his ear, but I know I’m not in for a good conversation.
The other thing about this man, besides the coat and the dent, is the football. He’s carrying a football, tossing it hand to hand, and he tells me to run out and he’ll pass it to me and I’ll catch it. “Oh, no thanks,” I say, I think succeeding in making it sound casual.
“Oh, I’d probably drop it.”
“Girls always say that. Especially the pretty ones.” He doesn’t actually wink here, but it’s implied. “But you could catch it. You probably would. You never know. Probably you would. You would.”
“No thanks.” I turn away at this point and take a few steps into the street. No bus in sight.
“You’re waiting for the bus?”
I say yes, although this should be obvious, what with the standing at a bus stop looking in the direction of the bus.
“Where are you going?”
I can’t answer this honestly, because I’m not about to tell this guy that I’m on my way to my first therapy session since I decided to start dealing with the diagnosis. That’s not something I want to get into with him or you or even the therapist, really, so I tell him I’m going to my boyfriend’s house.
“Oh, well don’t worry then. Your boyfriend won’t care if you’re late. He won’t mind if you stop and play. Pretty girl like you. Don’t worry about it.”
Anytime I’m told not to worry twice, I start to worry. I wonder why no one else is at this bus stop. Other people on the street are doing exactly what I would be doing, which is keeping their heads down or looking in the shop window with the ancient beauty products that have been going rotten and gathering dust since the store closed down a year ago. The bottles and brushes stand and stare out silently, and the people rush past as fast as possible, and no one is really around to help if it turns out I need it.
I step into the street again to see if the bus is coming. Nothing yet. When I step back onto the curb, it’s at a slightly farther distance from this guy. He doesn’t close the gap, and I feel a little better.
“What’s your name?”
“Sarah.” No, it’s not.
“Sarah. That’s a pretty name. Where you from, Sarah?”
“No, I mean, your people.”
I tell him Russia, which is also not true, but I realize simultaneously that I can’t place where this guy might be from. His speak isn’t slurred, exactly, but it’s not clear. Sort of mumbled, and maybe with a touch of an East Coast accent, something Boston-y. His hair is brownish and grayish and patchy, coarse, and his eyes are dark and his skin brownish, his features soft and thick, no angles to him anywhere. Even the dent is sort of a soft, curved cave. I suddenly feel bad for whatever part of him used to be under there that isn’t anymore.
He’s talking about some Russians he knew; they played poker and had the dirtiest mouths. “They taught me all the bad words in Russian. All of them. I know all the dirty words in all the languages.” I go to step out into the street, and he tells me, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when your bus is coming. You won’t be late. Don’t worry.”
The bus is coming, way down at the end of my vision, orange lights up top, white lights below. I step back onto the curb.
“Do you know Russian?”
“No. I never learned.”
“Your bus is coming.”
“You sure you don’t want to catch the ball? Just once? You don’t have much time. You could do it, probably. I bet you would. I bet you’d catch it. You’d be fine. You could probably do it. You could do it if you run out now and I throw it and I’d throw it right to you. You could catch it just fine. Probably you would. I just want to make sure everybody has fun. It’d be fun. You’d have fun if you caught it, and probably you would.”
The bus pulls up, and he’s still going.
“You have fun now, Sarah. You’re a pretty girl. You should always have fun. It’s really fun if you just try, so maybe next time we’ll play catch and you’ll catch it and it’ll be just fine.”